Arthur Lasenby Liberty
If you're already a Londoner, or visiting the city anytime soon and love fashion and textile history, I couldn't recommend a visit more. Nestled in the the quirky, fashionable Bermondsey Village the Fashion Textile Museum aims to not simply display and collect items relating to fashion, jewellery and textile design, but also offers inspiration to a new generation of creatives. It's housed in an equally quirky and fascinating building designed by Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta.
It was originally founded by the iconic British designer Zandra Rhodes (one of my favourites!) as a centre to showcase a programme of changing exhibitions exploring elements of fashion, textile and jewellery as well as the Academy which runs courses for creative students and businesses. Now the Fashion and Textile Museum has been redeveloped and operated by Newham College so that the museum is a creative hive of learning, ideas and networking for the fashion and jewellery industry.
I had a family meal at the 30 St Mary Axe (known more commonly as the 'Gherkin' by Londoners because of the shape of the building!) and I noticed there was a few posters locally promoting the Liberty exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum. I've always had such a love affair with Liberty so I bookmarked this as a must-see whilst in the city.
Liberty has of course been at the cutting edge of design and the decorative arts since 1875 when Arthur Lasenby Liberty borrowed £2,000 from his future Father in Law and took over half of 218a Regent Street with three dedicated staff. Arthur Liberty was devoted to his vision of an Eastern Bazaar and determined to change the look of homeware and fashion. His collection of ornaments, fabric and objets d’art proved irresistible to a society captivated by Japan and the East art. Within eighteen months the loan was repaid and the second half of 218a Regent Street was bought and neighbouring properties were added to house to cope with the ever increasing demand for carpets and furniture.
By 1884, Arthur Liberty started to work with Costume Society founder Edward William Godwin and together they created in-house apparel to challenge the fashions of Paris which, as you can imagine, was far more elaborate in style. As a Royal Warrant holder dedicated to quality, Arthur Liberty forged strong relationships with many British designers, most famously the protagonists of the Art Nouveau movement (translates to 'the new art'). In fact, Liberty had become so synonymous with this new style that by the end of the 19th century in Italy, Art Nouveau became known as 'Stile Liberty'.
The 'Liberty in Fashion' exhibition explores Liberty’s impact on British fashion, from Orientalism and Aesthetic dress in the 19th century, through Art Nouveau and Art Deco in the early 20th century, and the revival of these styles since the 1950s. Liberty Art Fabrics and the textile design studio take centre stage as the internationally recognised leader in floral, paisley and patterned prints and dress fabrics. I felt the whole exhibition was curated so beautifully, and it was fascinating to see how not only Liberty crafted it's strong creative aesthetic, but also how the fashion and costume period has changed over time in a reaction to the changes of both women and men's tastes and roles throughout the ages.
And would you believe that Liberty is celebrating a 140th anniversary? Because of this the exhibition charts Liberty’s history as not only one the most fashionable places to shop in London, but also as its role as the source and originator of key trends in fashion history. Over 150 garments, textiles and objects demonstrate Liberty’s strong relationships with designers since 1875, from Arthur Silver of Silver Studio to collaborations with Jean Muir, Cacharel, Yves Saint Laurent, Vivienne Westwood and even Hello Kitty! For me it was seeing part of Anna Sui's collaboration with Liberty that was particular special. Anna Sui is one of my favourite fashion designers and witnessing the vast collaborations between Liberty, as mentioned here, from a variety of spectrums made me truly appreciate how timeless the Liberty brand is despite the 140 years history. No wonder it's still a shop that is not only loved so much in London, but loved just as much worldwide, illustrating how Arthur Liberty's vision transcends a variety of cultures and language barriers.
Have any of you made a visit to the Fashion and Textile Museum? And how many of you visited this Liberty in Fashion? What did you think? I'd love to know!